CNN CNN


 

Return to Transcripts main page

STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Umass Students Stunned; Remembering Victims from This Week's Tragedies; Interview with B.J. Walters; Search and Recovery in West, Texas; Anatomy of a Terror Attack; Communication Between Authorities and Suspect

Aired April 22, 2013 - 08:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev jumped back into campus life, seemingly unfazed classmates say by the terror attacks he's accused of committing.

ZACH BETTENCOURT, UMASS DARTMOUTH STUDENT: I saw him Tuesday, the day after, at the gym.

LAWRENCE: Zach Bettencourt says Dzhokhar was acting like he didn't have a care in the world.

BETTENCOURT: He seemed very nonchalant, didn't seem aggress -- like nervous or anything.

LAWRENCE: : Dzhokhar worked out for a while and didn't shy away when Zach brought up the bombing.

BETTENCOURT: I was like, yes, these things happen in other countries. Maybe Iraq and Afghanistan. And he was like, yes, tragedies happen like this all the time. It's sad.

LAWRENCE: Just days before, helicopters and SWAT teams descended on UMass, Dartmouth, Dzhokhar was seen all over campus. Students have to swipe their I.D. to get entrance to the building and records show Tsarnaev did just that, right here on Wednesday. Friends saw Dzhokhar walking around his dorm. They say he went to this Italian restaurant on Wednesday, hanging out with other intramural soccer players.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was a pasta party for soccer team.

LAWRENCE: And the campus buzz over the bombings didn't seem to bother him.

BETTENCOURT: He was like, yes, tragedies happen, man. These thing happen around the world. It's crazy.

LAWRENCE: And to some students, scary.

BRITTANY LETENDRE, UMASS DARTMOUTH STUDENT: I ate where he ate, I slept a few feet away from him. I've had class where he's had class, like with a terrorist.

LAWRENCE: Chris Lawrence, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So interesting to see that campus right now. And of course there are still so many questions including why Dzhokhar Tsarnaev came back from that campus here to Boston.

Meanwhile the sports world is paying tribute it to the victims of last week's tragic event. At the Kansas Speedway, Nascar held a moment of silence Sunday for the victims of the Boston bombings, the MIT Police officer who lost his life and victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. There is a Nascar connection to slain MIT police officer Sean Collier. His brother, Andrew, worked in the engine shot at Hendrick Motorsports, one of Nascar's top teams.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(SINGING THE STAR-SPANGLED BANNER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: You have to listen to that. That from the Boston Bruins game. Fans have started a new tradition here, since the marathon attack. For the third straight game, the Boston hockey fans joined in the singing of the national anthem. I mean loud. And I suspect that tradition will continue for some time. Meantime, Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz will not have to pay any FCC fines for using some shall we say colorful language on live TV before Saturday's game.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID ORTIZ, BOSTON RED SOX PLAYER: This is our (EXPLETIVE DELETED) city. And nobody going to dictate our freedom (ph).

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: That is one of those words you're not supposed to say on live TV, but FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski sent out a tweet saying, quote, "David Ortiz spoke from the heart at today's Red Sox game. I stand with Big Papi and the people of Boston." He signed it Julius. So he gets dispensation for that I guess one time.

Also Saturday legendary singer Neil Diamond showed his support for Boston leading Red Sox fans in a version of his Fenway Park anthem "Sweet Caroline." It was in fact so good, so good, so good, so good.

This is where things stand right now in the Boston marathon bombing investigation. Right now we are waiting to hear if formal charges will be filed against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Meanwhile the marathon finish line on Boylston Street remains a crime scene. It is still closed this morning, although they tell us it could be open in the next 24 to 48 hours. A funeral is scheduled for 11:00 for Krystle Campbell. She is one of the three people who was killed in last week's terror attack. And at 2:50,the exact moment the first bomb went off last week, bells will toll across Boston for 30 seconds as the city pauses to remember the victims.

Let's go back to Christine Romans in New York with one brave 6-year- old and some of the day's other top stories.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Let's start first in Colorado. Another story of survival in a deadly avalanche killed in Colorado that killed five of his friends. On Saturday a group of six experienced snowboarders were caught in an avalanche 50 miles west of Denver. It was Colorado's deadliest avalanche in more than 50 years.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHERRIFF DON KRUEGER, CLEAR CREEK, COUNTY: Apparently they triggered a slide, at least one was able to bail off to the side. He was partially buried, but able to get himself out and call for help.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: The names of the dead men have been released. All of them were in their 30's, all from Colorado.

Police in India arresting a second man in connection with the alleged rape of a 5-year-old girl. He's accused of being an accomplice and is now being transferred to New Delhi for questioning and DNA testing. Police say the primary suspect, the girl's neighbor, told them about the alleged accomplice during questioning. The neighbor allegedly kidnapped this girl, locked her in his house and raped her repeatedly. The case has sparked angry protests. Doctors say the girl is stable, conscious, and alert, but a lot of questions about the safety of women and children in India this morning.

And several thousand runners and spectators hitting Central Park over the weekend for the first big run since the tragedy in Boston. You could definitely tell organizers had marathon bombings on their mind. Tight security. All garbage cans along the course removed. No backpacks allowed. Runners who brought backpacks had to take all their stuff out and put it in clear plastic bags.

No comment so far from NBC or sports caster Al Michaels after the voice of Sunday Night Football was busted on drunk driving charges. Al Michaels was arrested in Santa Monica California on Friday night. He spent more than five hours in jail before being released. He's charged with misdemeanor DUI. The 68-year-old is due in court on June 26th. Back to you in Boston.

BERMAN: Thanks so much. Ahead on STARTING POINT , we continue our live coverage of the investigation into the Boston bombings. And next we'll take you to China where people are still trying to recover after the deadly earthquake there. You're watching a special edition of STARTING POINT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: A developing story out of China while you slept, rescue workers racing against time to find survivors from Saturday's powerful earthquake in Sichuan province in southwestern China. At least 188 people were killed. More than 11,000 were injured. CNN's David McKenzie talked to one family whose lives are shattered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID MACKENZIE, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This is where the Gals (ph) lived. They are trying to take anything valuable from their house. This house was almost completely destroyed when the earthquake struck at 8:00 in the morning. The house started shaking, windows fell out. And they tried to rush outside. All six had to get outside to safety. And one didn't make it, the grandfather died. They buried him earlier today.

And if you look, they haven't managed to save everything. They've left their clothes, their bits and pieces, really this earthquake has shattered their lives. And this is what they managed to save, some of the furniture, some of their prized possessions. They have set up their kitchen outside trying to have some kind of normal life.

But all throughout the region, we've seen people living outside, outside of their houses. Even when it looks like they're safe, they are too afraid to go back inside because of fear it will collapse.

They're looking through the papers and photographs of the grandfather who died. He was in his 60's when this tragedy happened. He was killed by falling debris. We've seen thousands of people outside their homes like this, many more thousands are injured. And hundreds dead. But it's ultimately the private tragedies like this that are the worst part of the earthquake. David McKenzie, CNN, Sichuan, China.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ROMANS: And West, Texas still in shock and mourning after last weeks's massive and deadly explosion at the fertilizer plant. 14 people were killed, 200 injured. There are still strict curfews, little or no water or electricity in some areas, but residents are being allowed back into their homes, some residents. B.J. Walters and his grandmother were evacuated from their apartment about a mile from the blast site. They finally returned home yesterday. And B.J. is with us this morning. First of all, how are you and your grandmother doing at this point?

B.J. WALTERS, WEST, TEXAS RESIDENT: We're doing pretty good. I would say that we're still a little saddened for those that cannot return home and my heart breaks for them. But as an individual family, we're doing okay.

ROMANS: So you were allowed back to see your apartment yesterday. What did you find when you went back?

WALTERS: Well, our apartment fortunately was unharmed any further than what we saw on Wednesday evening. Downstairs, our neighbors had their window blown out. We had an attic door that opened due to the impact on the ground. And other than that, everything was as we left it.

ROMANS: We know your landlord was missing. Now confirmed dead. You can tell us about your neighbors, what they're going through, how this has touched sort of your circle? WALTERS: Well, not only was he our landlord, but I know two of his sons, they played baseball here in West. And Lucky was a very good man. In fact to give you an idea of how close-knit a community we are, I didn't know his first name was Kenny until this story broke. We all knew him as Lucky. Wonderful, wonderful man. Loved to fish with his boys and loved baseball. Just was always very happy individual.

ROMANS: That story repeated 14 times over and so many people hurt. You lived a mile from that fertilizer plant. Were there ever any concerns in the town about a nursing home, an apartment building, schools, so close to the plant?

WALTERS: You know, the only thing that I've heard and I've heard it several times is that our two school superintendents, the current one and the one before him, both held several meetings over the course of each year to discuss with a would happen if that ever in fact did occur. Other than that I haven't heard a whole lot of concern before it occurred.

ROMANS: So, what do you guys do now, B.J.?I know the church services this weekend, just beginning to try to heal, laying people to rest. What does the town do, how do you think the town pulls together going forward?

WALTERS: Well, as I've mentioned, we're not just a community or a town, we're all family. We know each other on nickname basis. We'll never be the same around here, but we are a community that I am so happy and so proud to call home because we are a resilient group. Maybe that's part due to our Czech heritage. Maybe not. But I am very proud to call this place home and I know the people here will -- they will bounce back because we're strong individuals.

ROMANS: All right. B.J. Walters, we're all watching and rooting for you. Thank you so much for joining us this morning with your story.

WALTERS: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, STARTING POINT is back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERMAN: Welcome back everyone to our live coverage of the aftermath and the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombings. CNN has been able to confirm right now that the 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev he has been communicating with interrogators in his hospital. We don't know if that communication is written, spoken or otherwise.

But CNN now able to confirm that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev the suspect is communicating with those people questioning him right now. It has been a tumultuous week since this attack one week ago two bombs exploded 12 seconds apart.

Let's go to Pamela Brown live now with the latest on the investigation -- Pamela.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well John, the city of Boston is still in recovery mode after a week of terror, chaos, and heartache.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN (voice over): 2:50 p.m. April 15th, a bomb goes off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, 12 seconds later -- another explosion not far away. Runners and spectators at the finish line stunned, many running from the scene and some toward it. Marathon volunteers become first responders trying to save lives. Tents meant for tired runners used for triage. Police told runners and spectators to clear the area.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Get all units in this city to this scene now please.

BROWN: Reports of more possible bombs, air traffic grounded, a separate fire at the JFK library that proved to be unrelated. Soon hospitals report fatalities and scores of serious injury, including lost limbs and injuries to children.

Then shock as we get details of one of the deaths. Martin Richard, an eight-year-old boy whose sweet smile became the face of the tragedy for many.

Boston and the nation on high alert. At 6:10 p.m., the President condemned the attack.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We still do not know who did this or why.

BROWN: Federal officials quickly classified the bombings as an act of terror and put all hands on deck with a level one mobilization. All sports and cultural events in Boston canceled, the finish line of the Boston Marathon now a crime scene, bustling with investigators looking for clues.

RICK DESLAURIAS, FBN SPECIAL AGENT: Someone knows who did this.

BROWN: Day two with no one in custody, law enforcement makes a plea for the public's help asking for videos and photographs.

DESLAURIAS: We ask that businesses review and preserve video surveillance, video and other business records in their original form. We are asking the public to remain alert.

BROWN: The investigation finds only two bombs were used in the attacks. Nearly identical devices that were homemade assembled inside pressure cookers filled with metals designed to inflict damage.

TRACE DECHERT, TRAUMA SURGEON: We've been removing various things from people in the sense of it's not necessarily identified, just pieces of plastic, metal, just various random things.

BROWN: As the day goes on we learn that 29-year-old Medford, Massachusetts resident Krystle Campbell is one of the other victims of the attack. Her mother, Patty, tried to hold back emotion for the cameras. PATTY CAMPBELL, MOTHER OF KRYSTLE CAMPBELL: She was always smiling from --

BROWN: The third victim is revealed by Boston University to be a 23- year-old graduate student Chinese national Lingzi Lu. Her adviser and professor remembers a kind woman with a bright future.

ERIC POLACHECK, PROFESSOR, BOSTON UNIVERSITY: It's such a waste of all the time and energy and dreams that she had and we'll never know what she could have done.

BROWN: Day three: still no arrest and a city on edge. Governor Deval Patrick spoke with CNN's Wolf Blitzer urging the public to be patient.

PATRICK DEVAL, GOVERNOR (D), MASSACHUSETTS: This is going to take some time, a lot of time. And particularly given that there hasn't been an individual or group that's claimed responsibility.

BROWN: Day four, President Obama comes to Boston and speaks at an interfaith service telling Boston the country stands with it.

OBAMA: The world will return to this great American city to run harder than ever and to cheer even louder for the 118th Boston Marathon. Bet on it.

BROWN: Later that day, a break in the case. The FBI releases photos and surveillance videos of these two men walking with backpacks. At 10:48 p.m., gunshots are heard on the campus of M.I.T. in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Reports come in that campus officer Sean Collier was killed.

Soon after two men car jack a black SUV Mercedes leading police on a chase throwing a grenade and pipe bombs out of the stolen car's windows culminating with a shoot-out in nearby Watertown where one suspect revealed to be Tamerlan Tsarnaev was killed. Day five: witnesses describe the mayhem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We saw the explosion, we must have heard about 60 gunshots.

BROWN: 2:40 a.m., a robo call sent to Watertown residents.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is an active incident in Watertown right now. Chief Deveau is advising all Watertown residents to remain in their homes.

BROWN: 4:22 a.m., a suspect on the run.

EDWARD DAVIS, BOSTON POLICE COMMISSIONER: We believe this to be a terrorist. We believe this to be a man who has come here to kill people. We need to get him in custody.

BROWN: By 8:00 a.m. Friday, all of Boston and surrounding areas shut down as an unprecedented manhunt ensues for suspect two, 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, brother of suspect one. PATRICK: We have suspended all service on the MBTA, our public transit service. And that will continue until we think it's safe to open all or some of that. We're asking people to shelter in place. In other words, to stay indoors with their doors locked.

BROWN: At 8:20 p.m., the stay inside order was lifted without a suspect in custody.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In terms of how he got away, he did it on foot. He fled on foot.

BROWN: Minutes later, a Watertown resident walks outside and sees blood on his boat, lifts the tarp and sees a man covered in blood. Authorities rush to the scene. A standoff with flash bombs, gunfire, a tense 25 minutes seen in this infrared video from the Massachusetts state police. It finally ended after FBI negotiators convince Tsarnaev to crawl out of the boat and surrender according to law enforcement sources. He was swiftly taken into custody.

DESLAURIAS: Today the City of Boston, the City of Cambridge and the City of Watertown and many other communities can breathe a sigh of relief.

BROWN: Tsarnaev severely weakened from blood loss was taken by ambulance to the hospital. Overnight in the streets of Boston, celebrations, law enforcement hailed as heroes.

Day six, as Tsarnaev lay sedated and unable to speak from a neck injury, federal prosecutors prepared charges against him.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Boston, Massachusetts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: What a week it has been. And this news is just in. CNN has been able to confirm that investigators have been communicating with the 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev who is in the hospital.

Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger brings us this information. We have her on the phone right now. Gloria what can you tell us?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well my sourcing is a senior law enforcement official who says that they have indeed been questioning the suspect since yesterday. There is some form of communication between law enforcement and the suspect. My source did not know whether in fact that communication was in writing. There is a lot of presumption it's in writing.

We do have Fran Townsend reporting that the communication has been in writing. Neither of our sources was able to discuss exactly, though, John, what's being communicated, how far they're getting with him, what they're learning. But I was told unequivocally that they have been questioning him and that's been going on since yesterday.

This communication going on since yesterday. Gloria, We do know he suffered some kind of wound to the neck. We understand there are periods of time he was sedated and intubated as well. So we can infer from that speaking would be rather difficult. But your sources saying that there is communication. Fran Townsend saying she has sources that the communication is by writing. But they would not tell you just to confirm the nature of any of this communication?

BORGER: No, they wouldn't. And I'm not sure how much it is actually. I was trying to find out exactly what questions they were asking. One would presume, of course John, that the questions they're asking would be about the possibility of any other planned attack because that's the first thing law enforcement always wants to find out. But my source would not talk about the nature of any of the communications.

All right. Gloria Borger, thank you for that.

And again, we've been talking to Police Commissioner Ed Davis here in Boston as well as other officials here and they did indicate just what Gloria said that the very first questions they would want answered from Dzhokhar Tsarnaev would be is there any other reason to be concerned about public safety here in the Boston area.

Again, that news just up from Gloria Borger. We can confirm that investigators are communicating, have been since yesterday, with the 19-year-old suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

STARTING POINT back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: We're just shy of 9:00 a.m. in the East. That's it for STARTING POINT. I'm Christine Romans.

CNN's continuing live team coverage of the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings continues now with Wolf Blitzer in Boston.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much.

One week after the deadly terror attack at the Boston Marathon, there is a city that is searching for answers and it is Boston right now. And the lone surviving suspect is 19-year-old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He's in intensive care here at a Boston hospital. And this morning there is new information, he is in fact communicating with investigators.

Meanwhile the city is coming together, trying to at least, preparing to move forward. Holding a moment of silence at 2:50 p.m. Eastern this afternoon the moment the explosions rocked the world. NEWSROOM special coverage of the Boston bombings begins right now.